YORK, NE--During the Upper Big Blue NRD Board of Directors meeting on March 21, the board passed a motion to seal the lake bottom at Pioneer Trails Recreation Area northeast of Aurora. The lowest of three bids was accepted from Dobson Brothers Construction for $188,500 to perform mixing the soda ash with the lake bottom soil to form a seal encompassing 16 acres of surface water above the dam.
In that same motion, the board approved the purchase, transportation, and storage of soda ash in preparation for the soil mixing work. Ninety-two tons of soda ash will be trucked in from Wyoming and temporarily stored at the Aurora COOP plant from Harcros Chemicals, Inc. GSI Engineers will be hired to provide daily quality control testing during construction. The cost for soda ash purchase, transport, and storage is $47,854, and added with Dobson’s sealing of the lake bottom comes to a total of $236,354, and will be covered in the NRD’s fiscal year 2013 budget.
When the dam at Pioneer Trails Recreation Area was first constructed on a tributary of Lincoln Creek in 1986, the project’s original intent was to provide groundwater recharge and water-based recreation. Collected surface water from storm run-off behind the dam would eventually percolate through the soil on the lake bottom to recharge the aquifer. In conjunction to these conservation measures, a recreation area was built on the east side of the lake that offered camping, picnicking, boat ramp, and restrooms. However, water seepage rates were much higher in the lake bottom soil than expected. Over the years, folks who recreated at the site wanted to see a more sustainable lake level for boating, fishing, swimming, and wildlife habitat.
The NRD Board also approved the motion to authorize NRD staff to let bids for drilling a water supply well of about 1,000 gallons per minute and a pumping system for further lake stabilization at Pioneer Trails. An electrical line must also be constructed to power the well. Due to high demand for well drilling at this time, the well would most likely not be drilled until late summer or early fall. The estimated cost for the supply well, pumping system, and power line construction is $65,000, which will be covered in the NRD’s fiscal year 2014 budget.
The NRD Projects Department will start preliminary design work to deal with future development and enhancement of the recreation area. Some of the possible ideas that the NRD is exploring is a layout for RV camping pads with electrical hook-ups, RV dump station, modern restrooms, picnic shelter, dedicated tent camping area, day use area, and an amphitheater with tiered-seating. A boat ramp, older restroom, and picnic tables already exist at the recreation area. There is currently no immediate timeline for construction, as the lake bottom sealing needs to be initiated first. Design and construction costs for these new upgrades is estimated at $800,000 and will be very similar in comparison to the work that was done at Recharge Lake in York during 2011-12.